Memoranda for Voyage 59
H.M.T. CAMERONIA. 12 Dec — 22nd Dec 1942
12th Dec. finds us leaving the U.K. for as yet unknown destination
13th Dec. is the beginning of what must have been the worst crossing for the ship as regards the weather.
14th Dec. The sea is much worse. At night one member of our crew is severely scalded, by a cauldron of boiling fat upsetting over him.
15th Dec. The sea is furious now. We are just able to make way. Our shipmate dies during the night from his injuries.
16th Dec. No sign of the seas abating.
17th Dec. There is a slight change for the better today.
The following article has been taken from the BBC Archive:
This is a brief Journal of George Chadwick. It was transcribed from the original document, which was committed to writing, by George, between 12 December 1942 and 6 February 1943.
At the time George was a Steward with the Anchor Line and engaged in wartime service on the “Cameronia”, which was being utilised by the armed services as a troop carrier.
George Chadwick is our father, he was born on 1 September 1919, served in the British Merchant Navy from 1937 until 1979 when he retired as Senior Purser/Catering Officer with Clan Line.
A very unassuming man, like many of his generation, he never mentioned this or any other of his experiences as a young man in the wartime Merchant Navy, although we were aware that he earned his several Service Medals.
It took the discovery of this note for us to realise just how heroic he and many other people had been during a particularly stressful period in their lives.
On completing this entry for submission to the website our father is 85 years old, married to Mary (for almost 60 years) but unfortunately due to failing health, he is now a full time resident in a care home in Dumfries.
18th Dec. Definitely calmer now. It is a great relief to us all on board as we are beginning to feel very weary. Fortunately we are not to know what lies ahead of us.
19th Dec. The sea is practically normal now.
20th Dec. We enter the Straits of Gibraltar. The weather is beautiful, and a welcome contrast to the previous few days. “Action Stations” are sounded at 1.30 am and after a lively hour of guns and depth charges the “all clear” is sounded at 2.30 am. One ship is hit by a torpedo.
21st Dec. We call at Algiers. Leave at about 9.30 pm. Are warned to keep our guns manned as we may expect a torpedo attack from the air. 10.30 pm “Action Stations” sounded. We put up a terrific barrage from the ship.
22nd Dec. The “All Clear” is sounded at 1.30 am. We get a thankful rest until 4.00 am when we have to go to “Action Stations” again. The planes seem very determined to get us as all their attacks are concentrated solely on us. An aerial torpedo hits the ship on the starboard quarter. We proceed to our boats. I myself was amazed at the calmness displayed by troops and it was a masterpiece of organisation considering there was over 4000 souls on board. With relief we are told that the ship is in no immediate danger and with a powerful escort we limp back to a place called Boojie. So much for our short trip through what is known as “Suicide Alley”. We have a few casualties, a few fatal. The catering dept. has to commence to salvage stores while the pumps keep the water at bay. We are successful on the above. The ship rapidly assumes normality even though there is a gaping hole in her side about 18’ by 16’.
Memoranda Continued 30th Dec onwards
30th Dec. We leave Boujie at 7 pm. This is one of the most perilous voyages I have ever made. We still have a gaping hole in the ship’s side and it’s amazing the bulkhead on the opposite side does not give way with the pressure of water being hurled against it.
31st Dec. This morning we bury at sea the last one of the soldiers who lost his life when the torpedo hit the ship. Ironically the remnants of the “tin fish” lie on the after deck for all to see. We have a very strong escort including fighter protection as we make our critical journey at just over 5 knots per hour. Our arrival in Algiers at 1 am. New Year’s Day coincided with an air-raid warning but fortunately there was no activity. We had very dirty weather for the above short trip, which made it very dangerous to the ship.
2nd Jan. I had an afternoon ashore and I purchased some cosmetics.
3rd Jan. I was standing on deck watching the arrival of a large convoy when a large bang made me turn abruptly around, to discover the ship had broken all her moorings. We sent the salvage boat, which had been fostering us since we received the torpedo, crashing into another ship but fortunately for her being an all-metal ship she escaped being sandwiched between us and the one she went into. It took 2 hrs and the breaking of 9 (x) 3 inch ropes before she was safely moored. Today most of the crew are being sent home but I am not one of them. I feel sure we have a “Jonah” on board in one of our crew who has been torpedoed on six successive occasions, this last one being his seventh. I believe he will be going home too. I wonder what I will have to relate next?
5th Jan. We leave Algiers on the second stage of our unusual voyage. The “Jonah” has left the ship and strange to say we have exceptionally good weather, which is almost essential to a ship with a big hole in her side. Anyhow this is one ship “Jerry” has not sent to the bottom and it’s a pity more ships in the past were not as lucky as we were.
6th Jan. We learn today that we are being taken further field than we expected. The tug that is with us asks us to let her have some stores to tide her over an extra two days. Not so long ago seven bombers (our own) pass us going in the same direction. I could not say whether they were on business bent, but they seemed loaded as they were going fairly slow. About 7.30 pm we have to “heave to” to enable a surgeon from one of the escort to be sent aboard to perform an operation on one of our own cadets for appendicitis. At the same (time) we transfer a few stores by the naval launch to the tug just ahead of us. All this takes place in “The Blue Peaceful Mediterranean” and represents a “sitting” target for any lurking subs. To the time of my writing this we have done about 150 miles in 34 hrs. Work that out!
7th Jan. About 10 am this morning we sight a convoy on our stern. We are just passing Oran and this convoy passes close by the stern of our ship as she calls by for two more ships. She is now on her way, the two ships having joined the convoy. They left Algiers early last night, we left two days ago. We still have about 200 miles to go. The weather is peculiar today. Heavy hail and lightning with a bitter cold. We are being well shepherded by shore based aircraft.
This afternoon at about 1.45 pm we are joined by a naval tug as apparently it is too much for one. Also a naval motor launch comes out with the tug to take off the cadet who was operated on last night. Unfortunately there is a heavy swell on at the time and (they) are unable to take off the cadet as she cannot get alongside. I wonder what our sister ship in the convoy would have thought, or at least her crew, when she saw (us) we were “hove to”. Probably what I might have concluded namely “She’s got her Grand Finale” but they would be wrong.
8th Jan. Nothing of any consequence today. We passed a small fishing yawl early this morning, and for the size of it, I thought to myself “What sailors they must be”.
The weather has been very lively today with a big swell. I stood on deck this afternoon watching the debris being flung out of the hole in the ship’s side. It is certainly something to marvel at. We expect to make our destination sometime tomorrow night.
9th Jan. Our arrival in Gibraltar at 2 pm concluded the first stage of our voyage. I Suppose we will be here awhile being “patched up” sufficiently to take us further. There will be plenty to interest us here if only to watch the various “practice manoeuvres” by the navy and R.A.F.
10th Jan. We “lay off” until the 13th. On which day we go alongside to await our turn to go in the “dry-dock”.
17th Jan. Famous cruiser “Ajax” arrived here. Her crew are transferred to our ship for a fortnight.
6th Feb. After a monotonous wait on the mole we enter the dry-dock. We are “patched up” in three weeks and we anxiously await our trip home. It is rather an interesting subject watching your own ship getting repaired and one cannot help but marvel the speed at which the job is done, and now where there was a gaping hole there is just a large patch of paint to denote where it was.
George Chadwick, our much loved Dad, died on Wednesday 29 June 2005, aged 85 years.
HMT Cameronia in her War Time colours at Malta